Why You Need to “Cross the Streams” on Social Media

Egon Spengler: “Don’t cross the streams.”

Peter Venkman: “Why?”

Spengler: “It would be bad.”

Venkman: “I’m fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, ‘bad?’”

Spengler: “Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.”

Ray Stantz: “Total protonic reversal.”

Venkman: Right. “That’s bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.”

-Ghostbusters (1984)

 

Even though Ghostbusters came out 30 years ago, many of the film’s lessons still resonate. Thanks to the movie, we know how to respond when a demon inquires if you’re a “God,” what the “magic” word really is, and why you should never, under any circumstances, participate in one of Bill Murray’s “experiments.” Another lesson from the film, and one included in the passage above, is to never “cross the streams.”

Why? Because, as Egon explains, it would be “bad.”

But anyone who’s seen the movie knows that the foursome–when faced with a VERY large and angry marshmallow man–breaks this cardinal rule in order to save New York City from ruin.

ghostbusters_trailer

Sometimes–whether you’re facing a seriously pissed off Stay Puft Marshmallow Man or a tepid Facebook audience–you have no choice but to “cross the streams.”

I used to feel the same way as Dr. Venkam and company about “crossing the streams” on social media. Because of this, I would silo my work on Twitter and Facebook; keeping the two completely separate.  I would NEVER try to bring an audience from Twitter to Facebook (or vice versa), and I rarely used Twitter to promote what was happening on Facebook.

But, like the protagonists in Ghostbusters, I had a change of heart and in this post I’ll share why I did and, more importantly, why it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while.

My Facebook Conundrum

Facebook, as a marketing tool, has always mystified me–even before they messed with their algorithm. While I’d had some success with the platform (see my post, “Cracking the Facebook Engagement Code”) as social media manager for the Harvard Business School’s (HBS) alumni office, capturing consistent engagement had proven elusive. One thing I found especially difficult was getting alumni to comment on my posts. When I FINALLY realized that my strategy–posting content or questions and waiting for responses–wasn’t working I decided to do something different.

This new approach began with people who liked the content I posted (see below).

Streams1

Using the HBS alumni directory, I determined which people who “liked” or shared my content were alumni AND on Twitter. After collecting this information on an excel spreadsheet, I then actively encouraged these individuals to “cross” their social media streams. For example, I would “ping” these graduates on Twitter and encourage them to share their perspective on something I had posted on Facebook. Before pursuing this approach in earnest, though, I spent a few weeks researching all the items I posted on the platform in 2013 (this process took a number of hours and, for the always strapped for time social media manager, this may pose a problem. But, as I will share shortly, this approach is definitely worth the effort) and by the time I was done, I had 50+ Twitter handles at my disposal.

Then, I went to work.

The first question I posed using this new strategy focused on entrepreneurship.

Crossing the Streams Post1

And the first tweets I sent looked something like this.

Crowther

At first, the response rate was slow. But as the hours passed, things picked up. By the time I’d finished this outreach, 36 alumni had posted comments.

Crossing the Streams Post2

Crossing the Streams Post3

Crossing the Streams Post4

Crossing the Streams Post5

Crossing the Streams Post6

Crossing the Streams Post8

Crossing the Streams Post9

But this “crossing the streams” approach is about much more than generating comments.

By knowing who responds to a post, I can then engage with the RIGHT people on Facebook. This engagement can also be more substantive than on Twitter since respondents are not constrained by a 140 character limit. Evidence of this “substance” is in the long, thoughtful comments alumni shared in response to my follow-up questions.

Furthermore, this user-generated content can be leveraged in a novel way on Twitter. Since my work on this platform is all about engagement (see my post, “Rules of Twitter Engagement” at http://robertbochnak.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/219/), I can use this Facebook activity as another means to bolster engagement with alumni on Twitter, especially those who are interested in a specific topic area, in this case entrepreneurship.

Below is an example of this strategy in action.

Entrepic2

This approach led to, among other things, 163 clickthroughs to my Facebook link and helped, albeit in a modest way, address the change in Facebook’s algorithm. Proof of this is in the vast difference in the “people who saw” my post on entrepreneurism (898) compared to those who saw the two posts that preceded it, which clocked in at 425 and 356 people, respectively. And since my Facebook “crossing the streams” strategy is in its infancy, I predict even more success as I identify additional alumni on both social media platforms.

Was this post helpful? Is there anything I missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments section. Robert Bochnak manages social media for the Harvard Business School’s alumni office. He’s also the former writer and editor of GradMatters: The Blog for Tufts GSAS.  Follow Robert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertBoc.

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